Travellers' Impressions
Stories & Articles from around the World

Dawn at Isandlwana

I woke at first light. Donning a robe I opened the door and stepped out onto the balcony. The sunlight was just caressing the peak of Isandlwana but the plains below were still immersed in that half light that produces shapes and shadows to stimulate the imagination.

In the silence of the dawn, the mind was free to conjure up sounds from the past:

The call of a bugle bringing men to arms

A pulsating thump thump thump as thousands of feet stamp the ground and assegais beat on hide

The boom of the cannon, the whine of the shell, its explosion echoing between the hills:

Howls from Zulu women on the high ground, urging on their menfolk now racing through the tall grass and onto the slopes of Isandlwana

The crash of carbines and the cries of the wounded as the Zulu warriors reach the first lines of defence

Screams of dying horses and the bellow of the oxen as they stampede through the camp breaking through the lines of red

The last shouted commands of an officer for his men to form a square

The fading crackle of guns starved of ammunition now too far and too late to reach

Battle cries from the Zulus as they face the last quiet defiant stance of the 24th

The final charge and the clash of steel as bayonet meets with spear

The sound of dying men

And as the sunlight fills the valley, reflecting off the white stone cairns that now stand on those same grass covered slopes, finally I hear:

The silence.

Peter Fairbrother 2003

Copyright © FAIRGREN 2003